Summary: The saying “adapt or die” sounds stark and scary. However, it is a truth that we all need to consider as we explore what it means to be adaptable.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
My staff is driving me nuts. I know I created a giant, hairy monster by giving them a say in when everyone should return to the office and leave Zoom behind.
You can’t be adaptable enough to make everyone happy.
For example, I have three camps of people. Some want the camaraderie (or so they say) of being back in the office. They like the idea of being able to have those good, old-fashioned water cooler chats.
Next, I have those who want to be hybrid and spend time at work and home; they want to go to the soccer, baseball, etc., programs to cheer their kids to victory.
When fear is high, it’s hard to convince people to be adaptable.
Further, there is another group getting more significant every time the gas price goes up. They want to stay home. They say it is crazy to have their hard-earned money spent for the fuel needed to get to and go home from work.
Moreover, how do I get a consensus? How do I get them to make agreements that will benefit everyone?
Turning into a pretzel
Dear Mr. Pretzel,
Guess you are learning the negatives of wanting to be uber flexible.
Let me see if I can help.
Being adaptable does not mean you win the popularity contest.
Firstly, you must stop hoping you can please everyone all the time.
Because you can’t!
However, you can be a great leader by helping your staff learn to be adaptable during times of change.
Most importantly, let’s take a minute to explore the whole idea of adaptability.
Here’s a big question: Why do some people adjust to change better than others? And next: How can you, as a leader, help those resistant to change become more flexible?
Adaptability changes occur mentally, emotionally, and physically all at once.
The three main ways to becoming adaptable include:
- Mental resets: Find different ways to express what is happening.
- Emotional resets: Understand the outdated fears that keep you stuck.
- Physical resets: Explore ways to change your environment to stay optimistic and realistic.
For example, today, I will tackle the mental resets. In other posts I will consider the emotional resets and then the physical resets.
Therefore, please take this week to practice the mental resets just like you practice any exercise. Here is what to do: Tackle a problem and write down as many solutions as fast as possible.
Do not limit yourself.
Adaptability starts with flexible ideas that won’t limit your thoughts.
In other words, start with the premise that everyone must arrive at work at the same time every day. Then, as the leader, answer, “And, how does that work out for you?”
In the same vein, go to the next idea that everyone can work from home except on Thursday afternoons. That is when they must be in the office for a staff meeting. Likewise, answer the same question “And how does that work out for you?”
Adaptability continues with creating a decision map of possibilities.
Look at all possibilities and then visualize six months or a year in the future and ask this most helpful question. It’s the question that will lead to better solutions:
How does that work out for you?
Finally, make your thoughts into a debate. This time, take the opposing points of view.
For example, if you are determined to have everyone back in the office, take a deep breath and debate as if you were the one who never wants to leave the comfort and financial benefits of working from home.
Use divergent thinking to gain clarity about being adaptable.
Using this technique, you learn to be a cognitive adapter. It is the first level of being an adaptability hero.
I promise, you will see new and unique opportunities.
After that, it’s time to communicate and persuade others to think in new ways. The term “out of the box” is still correct, although it does sound stale in today’s world.
Once you have done this thinking exercise alone, I suggest you do it with your executive team. Have all the various groups spend time and answer that vital question, “And, how does that work out for you?”
In conclusion, please remember that being adaptable is a core leadership skill needed now more than ever. Become a flexibility master and a better leader.
Here’s to your success,